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Craig Melvin/Buffalo Bills

2023 NFL Game Picks: Week 4

Last week: 11-5

Season: 30-18


DET (2-1) @ GB (2-1)

Thursday, September 28 | 8:15 PM ET | Prime Video


A rematch of the Week 18 game last season that ended the Aaron Rodgers era in Green Bay, Lions-Packers is a battle for first place in the NFC North, and we should expect another close matchup—with Detroit winning each of the last three meetings by one possession. Jared Goff has thrown an interception in back-to-back games, but I believe that makes it more likely he will take care of the ball on the road, and tonight could be when we see Jahmyr Gibbs break out with a big gain to complement the returning David Montgomery (thigh). For the Packers, both Aaron Jones (hamstring) and Christian Watson (hamstring) are expected to suit up, and they’ll be a huge boost to the offense with Jordan Love playing confident football and Romeo Doubs having coverage roll away from him thanks to the speed of Watson. The question will be whether the offensive line can hold up without David Bakhtiari (knee) and Elgton Jenkins (knee), and it’ll be a challenge to stop Aidan Hutchinson and give help to the backups on the left side. Based on those key injuries, I like Detroit to pick up another close primetime victory.


Winner: Detroit Lions


ATL (2-1) @ JAX (1-2)

Sunday, October 1 | 9:30 AM ET (London) | ESPN+


The first London game of the year is an important one, as the Falcons are hoping to finally get the passing attack on track to take a step forward in 2023, while Jacksonville needs to avoid a 1-3 start in the loaded AFC. Atlanta simply needs Desmond Ridder to play better if they are going to compete for a division title, and it’s tough to ask for a better situation than one with three top-ten picks at the skill positions and an offense that can run the ball at a high level (despite struggles in Week 3); if Ridder doesn’t have a good game this weekend, Taylor Heinicke—who went 5-3-1 last year in Washington—could get a shot, but the 2024 NFL Draft might be where the Falcons find a new franchise quarterback. Of course, the guy under center isn’t an issue for the Jags, and I trust Trevor Lawrence to get Calvin Ridley going against his former team much more than I do Ridder finding a way for Drake London and Kyle Pitts to be difference-makers… though strange things do happen across the pond.


Winner: Jacksonville Jaguars


MIA (3-0) @ BUF (2-1)

Sunday, October 1 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


Dolphins-Bills is the clear game of the week, and last year was much closer between the two teams compared to recent years with Buffalo losing in Week 3 (21-19), winning in Week 15 (32-29), and barely escaping with a playoff win over Skylar Thompson (34-31). The genius-level play-calling of Mike McDaniel was on full display in a 50-point victory over Denver last week, and the Bills being unable to get a consistent pass rush with Von Miller (knee) out could slant things in Miami’s favor. Plus, the Bills—despite shutting down Josh Jacobs in Week 2—still have some problems defending the run, and Tyreek Hill should have an easier time getting the ball in his hands with Tua Tagovailoa in the lineup. That said, Sean McDermott has done a nice job containing Hill in the regular season dating back to the gamebreaker’s time in Kansas City (226 receiving yards in five games), and Josh Allen typically torches the Dolphins with a 27:5 touchdown-interception ratio and 8-2 record. The wild card could be the changes made by Vic Fangio in his first shot at slowing Allen down, but the Dolphins might not have the options at cornerback to do it without Jalen Ramsey (knee) healthy or rookie Cam Smith yet earning a role.


Winner: Buffalo Bills


MIN (0-3) @ CAR (0-3)

Sunday, October 1 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


The four winless teams left as the calendar turns to October all face off this week, and it’s basically do-or-die time for squads that—in some form, whether it be internal expectations or media hype—had playoff expectations entering the season. Minnesota in particular has been disappointing because they were hoping to build on a 13-win campaign in 2022, but their luck has turned sour with an 0-3 record in one-possession games, and the team frankly hasn’t drafted well enough over the past two years to improve upon a foundation that former general manager Rick Spielman put into place. On the bright side, the Vikings at least have an offensive system that works, and the same can’t be said for Carolina under Frank Reich, which was a concern of mine entering the season, and I continue to worry about Bryce Young’s future based on the situation he’s in. They need to protect against the deep ball, but Minnesota should get a win on the road.


Winner: Minnesota Vikings


DEN (0-3) @ CHI (0-3)

Sunday, October 1 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


There isn’t much positive to say about Denver or Chicago after both were blown out in Week 3, and we won’t know how each side will respond until the game begins on Sunday. Unfortunately for the Bears, homefield advantage might not have much of an impact playing in front of a deflated fanbase, and I would imagine the Broncos will come out with more of an edge based on how badly they were embarrassed last week. Quarterback play should also be in Denver’s favor with Russell Wilson showing well to begin 2023, and Chicago’s struggles defending the middle of the field could lead to Jerry Jeudy, Marvin Mims Jr., and maybe Samaje Perine (as a pass-catcher) doing serious damage in Sean Payton’s offense. Perhaps we will still see Justin Fields get hot through the air to build confidence at some point, and he showed last year that he can take over as a runner; but changes might be on the horizon with two games in five day for the Bears, and there doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency in the Windy City.


Winner: Denver Broncos


BAL (2-1) @ CLE (2-1)

Sunday, October 1 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


Ravens-Browns is a great matchup to begin October, and it should be an intense battle with Cleveland having the NFL’s top-ranked defense through three games—but All-Pro linebacker Roquan Smith essentially saying that it’s a long season and to hold your horses. It’s easy to write about Smith every week because he’s a tremendous player that sets the tone for Baltimore, and he’ll count on the defense having more help than they did last December in a 13-3 road loss to the Browns with Lamar Jackson out. The help Jackson has will be another story, though, and the “X-factor” with Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) and Rashod Bateman (hamstring) missing is Nelson Agholor—who has caught nine-of-ten targets for 102 yards and a score over the past two weeks. I’d also like to see Zay Flowers have increased downfield involvement to pair with the underneath touches, and Mark Andrews is due for a breakout with just 80 yards and a score on the season.


Winner: Baltimore Ravens


PIT (2-1) @ HOU (1-2)

Sunday, October 1 | 1:00 PM ET | CBS


C.J. Stroud and the Houston passing attack has been very impressive to begin the season, but Week 4 will be a challenge based on Pittsburgh’s history against rookie quarterbacks—with Mike Tomlin having a 22-4 career record in such matchups. Although coverage could be better, the pass rush of the Steelers is what could present problems for Stroud, as I’m sure he’ll have various blitzes thrown at him along with coverages he hasn’t yet seen. On offense, Pittsburgh should have a similar game plan to last Sunday night when Najee Harris handled 19 carries, which sets up play-action opportunities for George Pickens and Pat Freiermuth. Eventually, rookie tight end Darnell Washington should make a play, too, but he’s already a significant part of the offense (44% snaps played) based on his contributions as a blocker, and he might be asked to help on No. 3 overall pick Will Anderson Jr. if needed. I like what we saw from Kenny Pickett last week and am going with the Steelers on the road.


Winner: Pittsburgh Steelers


LAR (1-2) @ IND (2-1)

Sunday, October 1 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


It’s early, but the immediate returns from new Colts head coach Shane Steichen have been very promising, and Anthony Richardson (concussion) should be back in the lineup with an opportunity for Indianapolis to start 3-1 before divisional matchups against the Titans and Jaguars. Improved play on the offensive line is the main difference for the Colts compared to a season ago, and Zack Moss has operated as a workhorse with Jonathan Taylor (ankle) out (and potentially not returning)—handling 54 touches for 252 total yards and two total touchdowns since missing the opener. For the Los Angeles offense, Sean McVay has done what he can to move the ball without Cooper Kupp (hamstring), but Matthew Stafford had too many misses on Monday night versus a fierce Cincinnati front, and Indy will be similarly aggressive up front. Because they’re playing at home and will have Richardson on the field to make things happen with his legs, the Colts get the edge.


Winner: Indianapolis Colts


TB (2-1) @ NO (2-1)

Sunday, October 1 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


I was leaning slightly towards the Saints, but this perfect analogy by Chris Godwin had me at least reconsider:



Jameis Winston is the wild card, and it’d be cool to see him play well after sticking around and embracing the backup role.


Winner: New Orleans Saints


WAS (2-1) @ PHI (3-0)

Sunday, October 1 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


I said last week that Sam Howell’s flaws could surface against Buffalo by holding onto the ball too long, and that’s exactly what happened with Washington allowing nine sacks in a 37-3 defeat. To be fair, the offensive line didn’t do him any favors, but—as pointed out previously—not seeing things quickly enough is something Howell has struggled with since he was at North Carolina, and I’m not sure the Commanders fully understood what they were doing in putting the pieces together for 2023. This week won’t be any easier with the Eagles sure to have the edge rushers step up before long to pair with Jordan Davis and Jalen Carter demolishing opponents on the interior, and Washington needs to give Brian Robinson Jr. more than ten touches to keep the defensive front honest. If the Eagles click on offense and can play from ahead, Sunday might get ugly.


Winner: Philadelphia Eagles


CIN (1-2) @ TEN (1-2)

Sunday, October 1 | 1:00 PM ET | FOX


Joe Burrow got through Monday night without a setback for his injured calf, and moving Ja’Marr Chase around the formation—resulting in 12 receptions for 141 yards—was a good way to manage the injury while still featuring their top weapon. However, it won’t be something Mike Vrabel is surprised by on Sunday, and I’d bet Tennessee is emphasis getting hands up if the pass rush doesn’t win early. In addition to that, Titans cornerback Roger McCreary has shown he can take on Chase dating back to their days in the SEC, and playing the run remains a strength for Vrabel’s defense to put more on Burrow’s shoulders. The bigger concern is Tennessee not being able to do much offensively with their line still a work in progress, and as stated entering the year, the moves made were a questionable fit with the run-heavy identity they want to have with Derrick Henry. I might pick the Titans if I had more confidence in them feeding Henry, but the Bengals can control the game with Trey Hendrickson and company if too much is asked of Ryan Tannehill.


Winner: Cincinnati Bengals


LV (1-2) @ LAC (1-2)

Sunday, October 1 | 4:05 PM ET | CBS


The Chargers picked up a needed win last week against the Vikings, but it came at a cost with Mike Williams (knee) done for the year, so we’ll see if Joshua Palmer and first-round pick Quentin Johnston are able to step up in his place. Frankly, Los Angeles hasn’t been as scary of an offense/team when Williams is out of the lineup, and Brandon Staley’s defense needs to be better—including this week against Davante Adams (18/318/3 line in two matchups last season)—if they are going to reach the postseason and get a chance to avenge last year’s playoff collapse. I would expect Austin Ekeler (ankle) to be held out again with the Chargers coming out of their Week 5 bye with games against the Cowboys and Chiefs, but Isaiah Spiller might be an option to spark the running game this weekend if Joshua Kelley is unable to get going early. There is a chance Josh Jacobs breaks out and Adams remains uncoverable to get Las Vegas a win, but I’ll go with LA at home.


Winner: Los Angeles Chargers


NE (1-2) @ DAL (2-1)

Sunday, October 1 | 4:25 PM ET | FOX


While the first game without Trevon Diggs (knee) did not go well for Dallas, the passing attack might be more of a worry with Dak Prescott throwing a head-scratching interception in the end zone last week—as general struggles in scoring territory continuing to pile up. Interestingly, Mike McCarthy hinted at a belief that impressive rookie cornerback Christian Gonzalez would shadow CeeDee Lamb this week, but I don’t think that will happen, and Bill Belichick will instead have two sets of eyes on Lamb with Gonzalez usually matching up with Brandin Cooks. On the New England offense, Ezekiel Elliott’s return to Dallas is one of the week’s biggest storylines, and the pairing of him and Rhamondre Stevenson can control the game with the Cowboys allowing a healthy 5.3 yards per carry on the ground; that allows Mac Jones to be more comfortable with Micah Parsons being on his heels some, and I’m excited to watch DeVante Parker face Stephon Gilmore in an old rivalry from when Parker was in Miami and Gilmore was an NFL Defensive Player of the Year for the Pats. This is a major toss up, so the nod goes to Belichick.


Winner: New England Patriots


ARI (1-2) @ SF (3-0)

Sunday, October 1 | 4:25 PM ET | FOX


Jonathan Gannon became somewhat of a meme this offseason, but the Cardinals are no laughing matter after beating the Cowboys—and before that giving fights to both the Commanders and Giants. San Francisco might be on another level, so we’ll see if Arizona can avoid a letdown with grinders like James Conner and Dennis Gardeck leading the way while Joshua Doubs plays efficiently at quarterback. But talent can be difficult to overcome, and I agree with Tony Gonzalez that Brock Purdy can be a top-five quarterback within the next couple of years; the media might not be able to recognize it, but Purdy has top-tier poise, high intelligence, creative mobility, and plus accuracy—not to mention intangibles that were raved about by Trent Williams and others last year. All that combined with a Kyle Shanahan-coached team makes San Francisco tough to beat.


Winner: San Francisco 49ers


KC (2-1) @ NYJ (1-2)

Sunday, October 1 | 8:20 PM ET | NBC


There has been plenty of talk about the Jets trading for a quarterback such as Kirk Cousins, but I don’t agree with that at all—as it would only take future resources away from a returning Aaron Rodgers in 2024, especially considering the state of the offensive line. That doesn’t mean the team can’t upgrade at quarterback, though, and Jake Fromm (currently on the Commanders practice squad) would be the clear choice for me as a guy that can come in behind Zach Wilson without shaking the former No. 2 overall pick’s confidence too much but is more than capable of entering the lineup if things don’t get turned around soon. In a big picture view, Joe Douglas being unable to self-evaluate his quarterback room could end up dooming him (remember, the Jets didn’t even have a veteran to help guide Wilson when he was a rookie until almost being bullied into signing Joe Flacco), which combined with a sub-par offensive line has led to all the frustration in New York. I don’t see a shocker like Indy had in a win over the Chiefs last fall.


Winner: Kansas City Chiefs


SEA (2-1) @ NYG (1-2)

Monday, October 2 | 8:15 PM ET | ESPN/ABC/ESPN2


Seattle will enter Monday Night Football as underdogs for an east coast trip, but Daniel Jones is 1-11 in primetime, and Saquon Barkley (ankle) might not be pushing his injury after it was revealed to be a high-ankle sprain. I still have a ton of faith in Jones as a franchise quarterback and Brian Daboll as a top offensive line, but New York needs to have Darren Waller be an impact weapon, and hopefully he’ll start to come down with some of the highlight grabs we became used to seeing from him with the Raiders. Either way, the Giants would benefit from making rookie speedster Jalin Hyatt more of a focus, and Wan’Dale Robinson eventually being a full-time player will be a boost for them (also, Evan Neal will hopefully build on a quality showing against Nick Bosa in Week 3). Right now, the Seahawks are the more dangerous team with Kenneth Walker III, DK Metcalf, and Tyler Lockett leading the weaponry, and rookie understudies Zach Charbonnet, Jake Bobo, and first-rounder Jaxon Smith-Njigba have flashed, so New York needs to create a turnover or two to avoid 1-3.


Winner: Seattle Seahawks